The world's most popular compression program just got better. WinZip 14.5 Pro ($50, 30-day free trial) adds a slew of useful features to the venerable program's already impressive suite, most notably adding a Microsoft Office-style ribbon that puts all of the program's considerable power within easy reach. No longer will you need to hunt through deep levels of menus. You can now perform tasks such as burning .zip files to a CD or DVD, or sending a .zip file via FTP, with a single click on the ribbon.
If you're a ribbon hater, you can always revert to the earlier WinZip interface by clicking the Settings menu, selecting Options, and on the View tab pick an earlier WinZip interface, either the previous wizard or what the program calls "Legacy menus/toolbar." You'll get access to all of the program's features from that toolbar, even the new ones.
There are plenty of other new features in WinZip in addition to the ribbon, such as a Zip file previewer, which lets you look inside Zip files when you're using Windows Explorer or Microsoft Outlook. New backup capabilities include the ability to back up files in .zip format to digital cameras and phones.
This new version includes all the features previously introduced in version 14, many of which were aimed at Windows 7 users. Goodies specific to 7 include integration with Windows 7 Libraries and Jump Lists. In addition, using the capabilities of Windows 7 Libraries, WinZip Standard users can zip files in multiple folder together in a single action, no matter where they are located. WinZip integrates with Windows 7 Jump Lists. Pin WinZip to the Taskbar, right-click its icon, and you can perform many zip-related tasks, including opening a zip archive and creating a new zip archive, among others.
WinZip 14.5 Pro works with previous versions of Windows, not just Windows 7. As was the case with WinZip 14 Standard, it includes improved security for encrypted files. It will automatically destroy temporary, created-for-viewing, copies of encrypted files. It also will work with Intel-based hardware that uses built-in AES encryption. And, like earlier versions of WinZip, it includes the ability to easily zip and mail files, and extracting files from .iso images.
This version of WinZip Pro also includes the .zipx compression standard introduced in a previous version of WinZip, which increased compression to a greater degree than the standard .zip. That standard will even compress .jpg files, which themselves are already compressed. A PCWorld review of an earlier version found the .zipx standard can shrink .jpg files by as much as 20 percent (WinZip claims to have reached 25%, but PCWorld reviewers haven't seen yet that level of compression). That's about 200MB saved for every gigabyte of photos.
Why buy WinZip Pro if zip support is already built into Windows? If you don't use zip archives frequently, then there's no reason to buy WinZip; Windows does simple jobs perfectly well. But if you want a ribbon interface putting many features within easy reach, better compression ratios, better integration with Windows 7, and extras such as making it easier to zip and mail archives, the Standard version is worth paying for.
Note that when you install WinZip Pro, it will ask to also install the Uniblue RegistryBooster2 trial version. The trial version of Uniblue RegistryBooster2 will scan your registry for errors, but fix only 15 of them. If you don't want it installed, select "No thanks, please just install WinZip." You won't be asked again.